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Stop repression on social movements, activists in Telangana: NAPM writes to CM

Counterview Desk 

In a letter to K Chandrashekar Rao, Telengana chief minister, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), seeking closure of FIR No 152/2022 to uphold “the rights of democratic activists and movements in Telangana”, has asked him to intervene in view of the recent “arbitrary” move by the state police against 152 social activists “under various provisions of UAPA, Arms Act and IPC”.
“It is a matter of grave concern to note that not only the Centre, but even the Telangana Government has been invoking UAPA in a casual and callous way, over the past decade, bringing into its fold numerous persons who have been part of democratic movements”, it said.

Text:

We the undersigned, representing various people’s organizations and state chapters associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), an all-india forum of social movements, are writing to you in the light of certain disturbing developments in Telangana, concerning arbitrary FIRs on social activists. At the outset, we appreciate your prompt intervention (as conveyed by media reports), directing the DGP, Telangana to drop UAPA charges in the FIR 152/2022, which came into public domain recently and implicates 152 activists under various provisions of UAPA, Arms Act and IPC.
However, the Press Release dt. 17/6/2023 of the Superintendent of Police, Mulugu Dist mentions that a memo would be filed in the concerned court, requesting for deletion of names of (only) 6 persons (including some well-known academics, activists, lawyers) from the FIR. This means that the FIR continues to remain in force with regard to all others, some of who are educationists, activists, trade unionists, leaders of women’s organizations & student groups, cultural workers etc. and have made an important contribution in the social sphere of Telangana, since decades, working with the ordinary people and marginalized sections. Some of them, we have learnt with concern, are also quite elderly.
To begin with, it is worrying that information about this FIR filed in Aug, 2022 by Tadvai Police (Mulugu Dist), making serious allegations against 152 persons (many of them well-known in public life) was revealed just a few days back, during the course of another hearing in Ranga Reddy Dist. Reportedly, the accused in the impugned FIR had no knowledge since 11 months, that they have been implicated! As per latest information available, a few persons (students) have been arrested yesterday by the police.
A bare perusal of the FIR also points to some glaring inconsistencies and indicates that some names have been added without even preliminary verification! For instance, the FIR filed in Aug, 2022 names some people who have been on bail (such as Adv Sudha Bharadwaj), who are still in jail (Arun Ferreira and Adv. Surendra Gadling) and even deceased persons (Jst Hospet Suresh, who died in June’ 2020 and Mr. K. Narasaiah).
It is a matter of grave concern to note that not only the Centre, but even the Telangana Government has been invoking UAPA in a casual and callous way, over the past decade, bringing into its fold numerous persons who have been part of democratic movements. This saga of ‘criminalization’ has given a handle both to the state police and the NIA, to persecute vocal activists, thus creating a chilling effect on those who seek State accountability. Many of those arrested have been languishing in jail since years, with bails being really hard to obtain in these matters.
Telangana is one of the states which has a rich history of people’s democratic movements, the statehood movement being one of the most prominent amongst these. Even as your Government ‘celebrated a decade of the state formation’, the popular aspirations that led to this new state being born remain largely unaddressed and unfulfilled. 
Saga of ‘criminalization’ has given a handle both to the state police and the NIA, to persecute vocal activists
Various sections including small and marginal farmers, workers, adivasis, dalits, women, unemployed youth and other oppressed groups who feel let down, have been organizing and asserting their rights constantly. The state is now also facing an additional challenge of rising right-wing communal politics, which needs to be dealt with firmly.
We wish to submit that democratic movements are the real people’s opposition, which the State needs to respect and be in constant dialogue with. Instead, quelling movements and persecuting activists will only create more public unrest. Mere political thought cannot be a ground for arbitrary FIRs and criminal prosecution, unless an express unlawful activity has been committed. Activists who believe in different ideologies and work for securing the legal and constitutional rights of people in public, should not be targeted unfairly by the State.
In the light of the above, we seek your immediate intervention to:
  • Direct summary closure of FIR No. 152/2022 naming 152 people and ensure early filing of closure report in the concerned court of law. Release all persons arrested under this FIR.
  • Consider closure of all previous cases in which there has been unjust application of UAPA against democratic rights activists in the state of Telangana.
  • Ensure that draconian laws like UAPA are not unjustly invoked by the state police to persecute human rights defenders and social movement activists.
  • Stop repression on activists and social movements in the state of Telangana.
  • Judiciously uphold the federal rights of the state, so that the Central Government and its agencies cannot make high-handed interventions and abuse the due process of law.
  • Take a position against the unconstitutionality of the UAPA law itself and call for its repeal by the Parliament.
Looking forward to prompt, just, pro-people action from your end.
---
*Anand Mazgaonkar, Arundhati Dhuru, Ashish Ranjan, Gabriele Dietrich, Maj Genl (Retd) Vombatkere, Meera Sanghamitra, Pradip Chatterjee, Sanjay MG, Sanjeev Danda, Soumya Dutta, Suhas Kolhekar

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